May's Spotlight Organization is Children's Literacy Network

Growing Readers for Life! The mission of Children’s Literacy Network (CLN) is to design and implement literacy-based programs to provide equitable opportunities for children to develop a love of reading and books. They are a volunteer-based nonprofit agency dedicated to closing the book and reading achievement gap to keep low-income students from falling further behind their more affluent peers. CLN accomplishes their goals through innovative programming at the early childhood and school-age levels. For 30 years, CLN has provided programs to 300,000 low-income children, distributing more than a million dollars in new high-quality books. CLN has expanded in the past three years, offering a continuum of services to reach more participants, have a greater impact, and significantly increase the number of proficient readers by third grade.

Donate directly to Children's Literacy Network


Events to support Children’s Literacy Network

30-days for $30,000 Campaign
June 1, 2021–June 30, 2021

In honor of CLN's 30th Anniversary, they are throwing a party all year long! During the full month of June CLN is planning a 30-day for $”30”,000 campaign! Also a special tribute and thank-you event for their volunteers and donors, “Turning The Page On 30 Years” is planned for August! Most important of all, “A Night For The Books", their main fundraiser event is in September. Dates TBD. Please check for details and to sign up for events.

How to Contribute

You can make a donation of any amount on the Children's Literacy Network website or send a check. During the month of May, you may also make cash donations at select Zingerman's businesses which will be sent to CLN.
CLN also accepts donations of NEW children’s books, which they can use in all their programs. Please contact them by email: [email protected] to arrange to drop off donations, and for more information about running a book drive at your workplace, school, or in your neighborhood.

Resources and Support Offered by Children's Literacy Network

CLN works with many schools and agencies in Washtenaw County and beyond to offer a wide range of programs, including:
• BookPALS is based on the familiar concept of “pen-pals” and utilizes a peer assisted learning (“PALS”) approach to build second and third grade reading skills, connect children from very different socio-economic communities, and motivate children to read for pleasure.
• Read to Kids follows children from Early Head Start preschool through first grade, providing books and literacy activities.
• FLIP: Family Literacy Interactive Program, based on Nell Duke’s family literacy model, reaches 1500 families each year. Families move together through stations with evidence-based literacy activities. Included are parent workshops, healthy dinners, take-home food Power Packs, giveaways, and a book for each child.
• CLNReads reduces “summer-slide” and extends reading over the summer for over 1400 1st-5th graders. Students are enrolled in the program and the interactive website during the final weeks of school. They log reading minutes and earn new books and prizes for reaching summer reading goals.
• SICT: Staying in Closer Touch helps incarcerated parents connect with their children through reading.
• Literacy Pack Project: To mitigate the educational losses of children due to the COVID-19 Pandemic, CLN is assembling packs with books and family literacy activities for families to collect when they pick up emergency food supplies. 2500 packs have already been distributed.

To learn more about our programs contact them directly or visit their website for more information.

Ways to Get Involved

CLN depends on a dedicated corps of over 60 volunteers who implement their impactful and innovative programs! They welcome new volunteers who can participate in person or virtually! Please contact LaToya Elliott at [email protected] for more information about volunteering.

There are many volunteer opportunities to choose from. BookPALS volunteers work on oral reading skills with second and third graders individually and in small groups. They also run monthly online book clubs during which they facilitate conversations about diversity, equity and inclusion, and encourage connections between students from different school communities. In our SICT (Staying in Closer Touch) program, volunteers help incarcerated parents sustain bonds with their children by recording the parents reading stories aloud, and sending those books and recordings to their children. At FLIP family nights, volunteers help set up and run literacy activity stations which parents and children visit together. CLNReads volunteers help K-5 students choose books during an exciting book give-away at their schools each June, ensuring 1500 students will have great books to read at home all summer. During the Literacy Pack Project, volunteers pack bags of books, transport the books to food distribution centers, and/or pass out books to families when they are picking up emergency food supplies. Volunteers can expect a rewarding experience during which they connect with children and families – not only giving out books and helping them with reading skills, but also helping motivate them to read for pleasure! At CLN, they “Grow Readers for Life!”

What's Going on Now With Children's Literacy Network

CLN’s main goal is to ensure all children have what they need to succeed in life. They want them to be prepared for kindergarten, to excel in school throughout grades K-12, and to have access to literacy support for that success. This is their dream, and their vision for Washtenaw County and beyond. As a community, the only way to bring this vision to life — for all children — is to align as a collective force and make literacy a central priority.

CLN is acutely aware that students and families in low-income areas have been particularly affected during the COVID-19 pandemic. While the needs for food and other basic resources are critical, the needs for literacy services have been urgent as well. CLN has worked alongside other community partners and they are proud of the impact they have made over the past year. CLN has provided over 6,000 books to families with our Literacy Pack Project, has connected 2nd and 3rd grade students from 9 participating schools through our online BookPALS program, and has planned for the future by adapting programs to utilize in-person, virtual and hybrid learning platforms.

CLN recognizes the emotional effects of living through the pandemic, and knows how important reading can be as a way to cope with stress and bring joy. CLN also recognizes that the pandemic has exacerbated many other family stressors, and highlighted inequities such as the digital divide. CLN knows that digital access is critical to success, and is passionate about making sure that both internet access and digital devices are available to every family.

CLN is dedicated to educating toward diversity, equity, and inclusion. The books used in CLN’s programs feature characters of color and diversity, include themes of inclusion, and introduce students to new customs and cultures. These books help students celebrate our similarities and differences, better understand themselves, and connect with others. All students - especially in these challenging times - need the benefits of diversity and anti-bias education to understand the world as it is today.

When students return to school next fall, local educators and CLN will be assessing the many consequences of the COVID-19 crisis - it is becoming clear that the literacy needs of students in CLN’s target areas will be tremendous. Many of the county’s incoming second graders will have spent only a few months attending classes in person for their first two years of elementary school, and many of them will have had only sporadic attendance during the long months of distance learning. These students, already at risk of falling behind in school, already at risk of being held back after third grade, and already at risk of failing to graduate from high school, will now be in even greater need of CLN’s services.

"As CLN celebrates our 30th year, we know that, even more than ever before, this is an urgent time for schools and community organizations to work together to close the achievement gap. It is our responsibility to ensure that children’s success in school is not defined by their zip codes or their race, and that we provide excellent and equitable services for the most vulnerable children and families in our communities."

Why Zingerman's Loves and Supports Children's Literacy Network

At Zingerman's, we're deeply passionate about equitable education for all. If you've ever been to one of our ZingTrain courses, you'll know we put a great deal of focus into learning together. We love that Children's Literacy Network is helping children find enthusiasm for reading, knowing that books can truly open and expand minds. Particularly in the isolating year we collectively just faced, it's such a special thing to be able to read stories and hear the perspectives of others. We love that CLN is working with children and their families in a way that's engaging and reaching out to all communities around Washtenaw County so that EVERY kid has the opportunity to develop a love of reading. We look forward to our partnership with CLN growing and can't wait to see the excellent things they do going forward.

Donate directly to Children's Literacy Network